The Basketball Hall of Fame has seen quite a bit of green parade in during recent years. The pandemic allowed Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to march into Springfield four months apart in 2021. The festivities this past weekend also afforded an opportunity to toast Mike Gorman, the broadcaster, and Bill Russell, the coach.
It left us wondering: Who will be the next Celtic celebrated by the Hall? A handful of possibilities:
Tommy Heinsohn (Broadcaster)
Heinsohn is already in the Hall as a player (1986) and coach (2015) -- one of only five to accomplish that feat. Now it’s time to make history and toast Heinsohn to cap the trifecta by inducting him as a broadcaster.
It’s only appropriate after Gorman, his tag-team partner for Celtics games for four decades, earned the Curt Gowdy Award this past weekend. Heinsohn was a part of Celtics’ TV broadcasts starting in 1966, only stepping away to coach the team from 1969-1978. He went back to the booth to call Celtics games after his coaching days, and Heinsohn also served as a national analyst for CBS throughout the 1980s.
Heinsohn is Mr. Celtic. He was a part of all 17 title banners in one form or another. In a Hall filled with Celtics legends, he deserves to stand apart from everyone else as the only three-time entrant.
Danny Ainge (Contributor)
Despite successful stints as both a player (two titles, one All-Star appearance) and coach (136-90 record), Ainge didn’t do enough to enter solely in either of those categories.
But the Basketball Hall of Fame can also consider contributors. Here’s how the Hall defines that category: "A person is eligible for enshrinement as a contributor at any time for significant contributions to the game of basketball. What constitutes a 'significant contribution' shall be determined by the BHOF, its Election Process Committee, and the Contributor Direct-Elect Committee."
After Ainge stepped aside this summer, the committee should consider the totality of his contributions to the game over the past 44 years. From a standout career at BYU, where he earned the John R. Wooden Award as the most outstanding player in the nation as a senior in 1981; to his role as a starter alongside the original Big Three during the Celtics’ glory days of the mid-80s; to delivering another banner during an 18-year run as general manager in Boston, Ainge’s contributions to the game are robust. And he deserves consideration for his overall impact.
Doc Rivers (Coach)
Rivers is now 10th all-time in regular season wins among NBA coaches with 992 victories entering the 2021-22 season. Of the nine others in front of him, eight are already in the Hall of Fame and the other (Gregg Popovich) will be there eventually. Rivers is also seventh overall in career playoff wins (98) and could vault to fourth overall this year by simply winning a first-round series.
The only knock on Doc is having only one championship and two conference titles, though low numbers there didn’t hinder the candidacy of Larry Brown and Jerry Sloan. A coach must be fully retired for four full seasons or have coached for 25 years to be eligible for enshrinement. Rivers, who spent nine seasons in Boston, has 22 seasons of experience on the bench. He would be eligible for induction as early as 2025.
Rajon Rondo (Player)
The most recent Big Three (Ray Allen, Pierce, Garnett) have all taken their spots in Springfield. Could Rondo join them one day?
We’d say it’s a long shot, but particularly if he collects another title before his playing days end, there’s at least a case to be made. Rondo is a two-time champion (the only player to win with both the Celtics and Lakers), a four-time All-Star, and three-time assists leader. If not for the ACL tear in 2013, his resume might be even stronger.
Rondo slots 17th on Basketball Reference’s Hall of Fame probability metric among active players, one spot ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo (who is sure to rocket up that list given his accomplishments through age 26). He’s given a 60.6 percent chance based on his accomplishments thus far.
Rondo will turn 36 this season and needs to be retired for four full seasons before becoming eligible for induction.
The only active player with a higher probability who has a Celtics tie is Kyrie Irving (83.7%). Kemba Walker (15.1%) and Al Horford (12.2%) rank in the top 25 among active players and could be aided by their college accomplishments (both won NCAA titles).
Jayson Tatum (Player)
OK, definitely a little too early to ponder this. But Tatum feels like Boston’s best chance at a homegrown Hall of Famer depending on the success the team enjoys during the prime of his career. You can throw Jaylen Brown in that mix, too, considering his career trajectory to this point.
Alas, if those guys play until, say, age 36, then we’re going to be waiting until at least 2036 before Brown becomes eligible.